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The phantom of the music school

Entrance of the musical school, Dubrovnik

The music school* of Dubrovnik nestled in the former convent of St Catherine of Siena. When you walk through the street of Strossmayer in the southern part of the old City, you can usually hear many notes and melodies drifting from the rooms and pouring down the walls of the old religious dwelling. Different instruments and various compositions going from the starting scales and etudes to the more demanding sonatas, concertos or symphonies of Mozart, Beethoven, Bach and other classical geniuses can be heard, sometimes even of local composers such as of Dubrovnik’s own brilliant virtuoso from the baroque period - Luka Sorkočević, the nobleman whom the school was named after.

Besides enchanting music, the building hides a ghostly phantom, according to witnesses who have reported the feeling of an invisible presence often brushing past them or even drifting through them. According to the reportings, the unusual encounters often happened on the second floor near the library. Who may the phantom be, it is uncertain, but there are some speculations.

The graceful building has a turbulent history in itself. Initially, the nunnery of St Peter once stood at the same place but burned out in the big fire that followed the most catastrophic earthquake that hit Dubrovnik. The horrific earthquake shook the city of Dubrovnik on the 6th of April 1667 between 8 and 9 o’clock in the morning. The great catastrophe left the City in ruins. At that moment the nunnery of St Peter was one of eight convents that existed within the City walls. Among more than 3000 fallen citizens, many nuns lost their lives since six of the convents were utterly destroyed and the remaining two heavily damaged.

There was a need to rebuild some of the convents to create new homes for the surviving and future nuns to be. The convent of St Catherine was hence erected and consecrated in the ruins of the old convent of St Peter at the turn of the 18th century where it existed for a bit more than 100 years.

Musical school, view into the inner courtyard, Dubrovnik

However, it is believed that the ghostly presence isn’t that of a nun that may have died here, but of very same Luka Sorkočević, mentioned earlier. A descendant of the respectable noble family Sorkočević (Sorgo), Luka Sorkočević (1734 - 1789) left a modest but valuable opus of different musical compositions. Among those, the seven silvery, bright and lighthearted symphonies written in major scales are still the most performed and cherished in Dubrovnik today. Luka, as a refined man that he was, often hosted literary evenings and music events in his luxurious summer estate.

You would think that the cheerful melodies that still touch the strings of our hearts would assume that their author was a merry gentleman too. However, it was quite the contrary.

In the summer of 1789, Luka suddenly disappeared from the city. He was found some weeks later on the Pelješac peninsula, but in a complete unkempt condition and in a poor state of mind. The poor gentleman had been suffering from melancholy and sadness, the results of the chronic illness in his last years. Luka Sorkočević committed suicide by throwing himself from the third floor of his palace in Dubrovnik at the age of 55. Today, the Sorkočević palace is the home of Dubrovnik's bishop, while the window through which Luka plunged to death has been walled up.

Whether his spirit is bound to earth as the result of his suicide, we shall never know. Although, without any doubt, Luka Sorkočević will forever live on in his beautiful whimsical baroque music of Dubrovnik.

*Officially named The art school of Luka Sorkočević, Dubrovnik

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